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Origin of Neil Armstrong's 'One Small Step' Line Revealed 149

SchrodingerZ writes "In an upcoming BBC Documentary, Dean Armstrong, the brother of astronaut Neil Armstrong, reveals when the world famous 'one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' line originated. For years, people have argued over when Armstrong came up with the line, whether it was on the spot or planned years ahead. Also debated is whether Armstrong meant to include 'a' before man, making the indefinite article 'man,' which alludes to mankind, into a singular, 'a man,' himself. According to Dean Armstrong, the quote was shared to him over a board game, months before the mission began. He says, 'We started playing Risk and then he [Neil] slipped me a piece of paper and said "read that." I did. On that piece of paper there was "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." He says "what do you think about that?" I said "fabulous." He said "I thought you might like that, but I wanted you to read it." He then added: "It was 'that is one small step for A man.'"' Armstrong had always insisted that he had said 'a,' that it was lost in communication static. This new story however conflicts with what Neil told James Hansen for his biography, stating he came up with the quote on the lunar surface. More on the historic moon landing and the life of Neil Armstrong in the new documentary Neil Armstrong- First Man on the Moon, on BBC."
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Origin of Neil Armstrong's 'One Small Step' Line Revealed

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  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrsam ( 12205 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @12:40AM (#42430543) Homepage

    Having watched and heard this moment in history more times than I can remember, playing it over in my mind, I do think there's a slight "hiccup" in the audio, but I'm not sure if it's long enough for a dropped "a".

    But it doesn't really matter. "a" or no "a". It was a moment in history that will never be repeated, or surpassed, ever again. What Buzz Aldrin, Neal Armstrong, and Michael Collins (in alphabetical order) have accomplished stands on its own merits. It is no more and no less of an accomplishment no matter what he actually said, or didn't say.

  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @12:47AM (#42430587)
    Why argue about whether he thought of it spontaneously on the moon or had thought of it or considered it before he took that first step. It's the fact that he said it ON THE MOON that is the good and important part. Personally, I believe that he probably did plan ahead and think about what he might say when he landed. Thus he most certainly did think of that phrase ahead of time (in my humble opinion). And who amongst us has not tried to get a little more glory by saying yeah I just thought of that spontaneously when we might have come up with the retort earlier. Certainly Armstrong does not NEED to be cooler or thought of as more: he walked on the moon. So who cares about whether that line was a spontaneous utterance or a well planned entrance line?
    Neil Armstrong, my here. I would love to fly there someday and see those footsteps in the lunar dust, if the micrometeroids have not destroyed it. They'll probably put up a velvet rope around it to keep us tourist riff-raff away. If only. I wish. I truly wish. [Fly me to the moon!!! ;>) ]
  • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SternisheFan ( 2529412 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @07:03AM (#42431581)
    The man has said publicly that he said "a man". That's it. He's a man of honor, and insisting on proof is demeaning. Why does this even have to be argued? Does a man's word mean so little anymore? Move on, people.
  • Re:The missing "A" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Monday December 31, 2012 @07:31AM (#42431669) Homepage Journal

    The problem with that theory is there was no pause or gap between "for" and "man". If it was swallowed by VOX or static the space would still be there.

    The guy fluffed his line, hardly something to be ashamed of when you are just about to be the first man in history to set foot on another planet and there is still a very slight worry you will just sink into the dust, and even if somehow you don't the spacesuit might fail, or the lift-off motor might not fire, or any number of other things might go wrong. Armstrong was human, after all, which is kind of the point since robots had been there before.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Monday December 31, 2012 @10:13AM (#42432213) Homepage

    I listened to the event live, and I and everyone in the room heard it as "one small step for man." And I remember at the time hearing a comment, "shouldn't he have said one small step for a man?" The audio recording is perfectly clear. There's no squelch, no gap, and nothing half-buried under static. The New York Times reported it as it was.

    Neil Armstrong originally insisted he had said "a" but later acknowledged that he could not have said so. Wikipedia cites sources. []

    Yet some encyclopedias and history books include the "a." It is a kindly falsification of history, made out of misguided respect for Neil Armstrong's feelings.

    And I find it shocking.

    It is a trivial distortion, but it is a distortion of an event that was witnessed in live broadcast by half a billion people and electronically recorded.

    If such a thing can be distorted simply to spare one man's feelings about a completely inconsequential mistake, what does that tell us about the trustworthiness of basic, prosaic factual details of historical events with few eyewitnesses, no electronic records, and money, politics, or national pride hanging in the balance?

Many aligators will be slain, but the swamp will remain.